Peter Eckersley's Legacy: AI Objectives Institute

Last week, we lost Peter Eckersley, the founder of the AI Objectives Institute, a beloved friend, mentor and colleague to many, and my brother.

Peter was not planning on dying. He had a thousand things that he wanted to achieve. His to-do list was crammed, and his host of visions for improving the world was equaled only by his utter disinterest in the supposed insurmountability of obstacles. It was that combination that allowed him to encrypt most of the internet - a project at the time so large as to be inconceivable, and yet he launched first HTTPS Everywhere and then Let's Encrypt. Now the entire internet depends on the work he did. To Peter, any problem was just a case of 'world enough, and time.'

We don't have any more of Peter's time. What we do have is the other thing that made Peter so entirely special: his unshakeable belief in the power of human beings working together.

Peter's last wish was that his new organization, the AI Objectives Institute , could continue his work - a series of projects around defining goals to improve humanity, and then translating those goals into something an AI can understand and work towards.

No single human being could possibly replace Peter: he is irreplaceable. That's why our next step is going to be finding and securing a group of incredibly talented people who can each pick up a chunk of his brilliance and continue his work. To do that, we need your help.

We need more people who share a passion for the future of AI morality and safety. Peter himself had already lined up Değer Turan to take on a lot of his outward-facing role as AOI's energetic project leader while Peter focused on his health, but he was planning to continue as Chief Scientist. We need to cover that role, and keep Brittney Gallagher and the team focused on the work full-time. This GoFundMe will keep the AI Objectives Institute's work going until the new team is in place.

Our goals are:
  • To build a framework on AI morality and safety that will be actively used by people designing/implementing AI, from the top level right down to the simplest shopping cart optimiser
  • To offer guidance to policymakers
  • To publish research on AI morality and safety
  • To promote interdisciplinary collaboration and research
  • To spur on and support the work of others that do the same

As AI Objectives Institute isn't yet set up to accept donations easily, the Foresight Institute (AOI's charity sponsorship partner) has kindly agreed to take donations for us.

We want you to pitch in however you can. Your expertise will help us realise Peter's vision. Your connections will help us find the missing pieces in the quest to rebuild Peter's many and incredible talents. Most of all, your donation will allow AOI to take the next steps to keep Peter's vision alive.

As I said in Peter's eulogy, the real thing has been heartbreakingly and infuriatingly ripped out of the universe. We each need to be 6% more Peter, but AOI needs to be 100% more Peter. This is a project he dearly wanted to see realized, and we're going to need your help to make that happen.

“Raising a child puts you in touch, deeply, inescapably, daily, with some pretty heady issues: What is love and how do we get ours? Why does the world contain evil and pain and loss? How can we discover dignity and tolerance? Who is in power and why? What’s the best way to resolve conflict? If we want to give an AI any major responsibilities, then it will need good answers to these questions. That’s not going to happen by loading the works of Kant into a computer’s memory; it’s going to require the equivalent of good parenting.” - Ted Chiang


Please get in touch with AOI directly for the following:
  • For individual donations larger than $10,000
  • If you are an Apple or Google employee and decide to donate - contact us after donating for instructions on employer matching
  • If your company would be interested in donation matching
  • If you’re interested in working with AOI towards our mission
  • Keith Thompson 
    • $50 
    • 16 d
  • Stephen Luntz 
    • $30 
    • 1 mo
  • William Saunders 
    • $1,000 
    • 1 mo
  • Laura H. Winn 
    • $500 
    • 1 mo
  • David Ginsburg 
    • $100 
    • 1 mo
See all

Organizer

Nicole Eckersley 
Organizer
San Francisco, CA
Foresight Institute 
Registered nonprofit
Donations are typically 100% tax deductible in the US.

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